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      RNA polymerase III transcribes human microRNAs

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          Abstract

          Prior work demonstrates that mammalian microRNA (miRNA or miR) expression requires RNA polymerase II (Pol II). However, the transcriptional requirements of many miRNAs remain untested. Our genomic analysis of miRNAs in the human chromosome 19 miRNA cluster (C19MC) revealed that they are interspersed among Alu repeats. Because Alu transcription occurs through RNA Pol III recruitment, and we found that Alu elements upstream of C19MC miRNAs retain sequences important for Pol III activity, we tested the promoter requirements of C19MC miRNAs. Chromatin immunoprecipitation and cell-free transcription assays showed that Pol III, but not Pol II, is associated with miRNA genomic sequence and sufficient for transcription. Moreover, the mature miRNA sequences of approximately 50 additional human miRNAs lie within Alu and other known repetitive elements. These findings extend the current view of miRNA origins and the transcriptional machinery driving their expression.

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          Most cited references 13

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          MicroRNA-directed cleavage of HOXB8 mRNA.

          MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are endogenous approximately 22-nucleotide RNAs, some of which are known to play important regulatory roles in animals by targeting the messages of protein-coding genes for translational repression. We find that miR-196, a miRNA encoded at three paralogous locations in the A, B, and C mammalian HOX clusters, has extensive, evolutionarily conserved complementarity to messages of HOXB8, HOXC8, and HOXD8. RNA fragments diagnostic of miR-196-directed cleavage of HOXB8 were detected in mouse embryos. Cell culture experiments demonstrated down-regulation of HOXB8, HOXC8, HOXD8, and HOXA7 and supported the cleavage mechanism for miR-196-directed repression of HOXB8. These results point to a miRNA-mediated mechanism for the posttranscriptional restriction of HOX gene expression during vertebrate development and demonstrate that metazoan miRNAs can repress expression of their natural targets through mRNA cleavage in addition to inhibiting productive translation.
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            Human microRNAs are processed from capped, polyadenylated transcripts that can also function as mRNAs.

            The factors regulating the expression of microRNAs (miRNAs), a ubiquitous family of approximately 22-nt noncoding regulatory RNAs, remain undefined. However, it is known that miRNAs are first transcribed as a largely unstructured precursor, termed a primary miRNA (pri-miRNA), which is sequentially processed in the nucleus, to give the approximately 65-nt pre-miRNA hairpin intermediate, and then in the cytoplasm, to give the mature miRNA. Here we have sought to identify the RNA polymerase responsible for miRNA transcription and to define the structure of a full-length human miRNA. We show that the pri-miRNA precursors for nine human miRNAs are both capped and polyadenylated and report the sequence of the full-length, approximately 3433-nt pri-miR-21 RNA. This pri-miR-21 gene sequence is flanked 5' by a promoter element able to transcribe heterologous mRNAs and 3' by a consensus polyadenylation sequence. Nuclear processing of pri-miRNAs was found to be efficient, thus largely preventing the nuclear export of full-length pri-miRNAs. Nevertheless, an intact miRNA stem-loop precursor located in the 3' UTR of a protein coding gene only moderately inhibited expression of the linked open reading frame, probably because the 3' truncated mRNA could still be exported and expressed. Together, these data show that human pri-miRNAs are not only structurally similar to mRNAs but can, in fact, function both as pri-miRNAs and mRNAs.
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              MicroRNAs direct rapid deadenylation of mRNA.

              MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are ubiquitous regulators of eukaryotic gene expression. In addition to repressing translation, miRNAs can down-regulate the concentration of mRNAs that contain elements to which they are imperfectly complementary. Using miR-125b and let-7 as representative miRNAs, we show that in mammalian cells this reduction in message abundance is a consequence of accelerated deadenylation, which leads to rapid mRNA decay. The ability of miRNAs to expedite poly(A) removal does not result from decreased translation; nor does translational repression by miRNAs require a poly(A) tail, a 3' histone stem-loop being an effective substitute. These findings suggest that miRNAs use two distinct posttranscriptional mechanisms to down-regulate gene expression.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature Structural & Molecular Biology
                Nat Struct Mol Biol
                Springer Science and Business Media LLC
                1545-9993
                1545-9985
                December 2006
                November 12 2006
                December 2006
                : 13
                : 12
                : 1097-1101
                Article
                10.1038/nsmb1167
                17099701
                © 2006

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